Catawba County K-64 committee to search for tech solution for county school systems | News

HICKORY – The Catawba County K-64 technology committee met for the first time Wednesday to discuss its mission and address the committee’s goal of improving and systematizing technology for the three public school systems in the county.

Nine committee members and K-64 CEO Mark Story attended the meeting. Committee members included school board members, technology employees in the school systems and residents in technology industries.

Committee Chairman Michael Ellwanger said it looked as though one member of the committee was not present.

Ellwanger laid out the mission and scope of the organization by outlining the problems the committee would look to solve.

The problems are the lack of a “standardized system” that can “deliver a flipped classroom across the board,” according to documentation presented at the meeting.

Both the lack of funding and access to broadband across the county were identified as barriers to standardization across the systems.

The committee discussed the approach it should take toward lack of broadband accessibility for many students at home.

“And that’s a difficult one, too, because you’ll get numbers that say, what, 99 percent of our county has broadband, but it really is how you define broadband,” said Marty Sharpe, the chief technology officer for Catawba County Schools.

“If you define broadband by Federal Communications Commission, then we’re not even close.”

Terri Hall, an instructional technology specialist for Hickory Public Schools, said the system sends out a survey that has a response rate of between 50 and 60 percent.

About 78 percent of respondents in the survey said they had access to broadband, Hall said.

The committee discussed several options and included tapping into unused dark fiber in the county or bringing in local businesses to allow students to use their WiFi.

Also, the group discussed standardizing the Canvas Learning Management System and hardware devices for students in all three school systems.

Luke Walling, a tech entrepreneur who is the CEO of Newton-based firm Temprano Techvestors, suggested hosting workshops to discuss some of the more technical aspects of the work, including the scalability of the technology.

Ellwanger instructed the three technology workers to assess the existing conditions in their respective school systems and report the findings at the next committee meeting.

All committee members were asked to review other systems around the state, with the possibility of planning site visits.

Ellwanger underscored the need for the committee to work quickly in formulating solutions.

“If we don’t have a solution that we’re recommending by January, we’re in trouble,” Ellwanger said.

The committee will have its next meeting at Shuford Elementary School on Sept. 28.

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